Netanyahu trial: Pendulum swings toward PM, Elovitch - analysis

For a month, the prosecution got to hit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Elovitch with punch after punch. Tuesday saw a U-turn.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu corruption trial  (photo credit: OREN BEN HAKOON/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu corruption trial
(photo credit: OREN BEN HAKOON/POOL)
For a month, the prosecution got to hit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bezeq and Walla owner Shaul Elovitch with punch after punch in the public corruption trial.
Tuesday saw a U-turn.
If former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua supplied one cruel headline after another to bring down Netanyahu and Elovitch in April, May gives the defense a chance to bring Yeshua down in cross-examination.
The change was felt both on a visceral level and by the analytical direction of the proceedings.
Shaul and Iris Elovitch looked uniformly stressed; pacing, shaking and looking like hunted prey during the prosecution’s presentation, infuriating defense lawyers Jacques Chen and Boaz Ben-Tzur. Red-faced, aggressive, they seemed ready to jump over desks and podiums to tackle the prosecution.
In contrast, lead Case 4000 prosecutor Yehudit Tirosh was walking on water in April as she scored hit after hit against the defendants. She was angry with the defense when they interrupted her, but there was a nip in her stride, while Yeshua seemed to enjoy the spotlight as he served up to the Elovitches and Netanyahus the cold revenge for which he had waited years.
The opposite was true on Tuesday.
The Elovitches were finally calm and seemed prepared for payback against Yeshua.
Chen was very calm and positive and seemed to relish having the main microphone, and not having to break into Tirosh’s show.
Tirosh raised far fewer objections than the defense had, but still jumped up several times and appeared annoyed with the defense for allegedly taking certain statements out of context.
Yeshua was now under stress and seemed to be fighting for his name and reputation as Chen tossed him curveball after curveball, forcing the former Walla CEO to dig himself out of a range of explosive and inconsistent statements he had made.
At the analytical level, the defense definitely threw quite a few wrenches as well into Yeshua’s credibility and undermined the strength of his accusations.
When Yeshua was attacking Netanyahu as a problematic character in court during the prosecution’s presentation last month, the prime minister looked bad. But when Yeshua had to explain why he said these terrible things about Netanyahu, such as that he was “destroying the Zionist enterprise,” it opened a giant hole in his narrative that Walla was doing all it could to help Netanyahu as part of a bribery scheme.
When Yeshua testified last month for the prosecution about statements the Elovitch family made about the lengths they would go to slant coverage in favor of Netanyahu, he was raising the building blocks of the case for conviction.
Yet, on Tuesday he had to admit he was lying when he called his reporters’ allegations against him, of slanting coverage, “made up,” or when he said “they have no soul” to describe media attacks on the Netanyahu family. He squirmed as he tried to convince the court he is now telling the truth.
At one point even two of the judges got him to admit that they should ignore the literal meaning of many of his texts, which he said were written  under pressure or with cynical and subversive purposes, and accept his explanation of what he truly meant.
To be sure, Yeshua had coherent explanations for his inconsistencies.
But Tuesday’s tone was all about the prosecution being on the spot and Yeshua finally being on the defensive, with Netanyahu’s defense team having regained the initiative.